Most child care providers have an on-site parking lot or driveway. This is a huge benefit for families and staff, making drop-off and pick-up a lot easier. But that benefit comes with some potentially big costs. Parking lots and driveways can present some serious risks to children’s health.
The biggest danger is keeping children away from moving vehicles. About 95,000 children under 14 years old are treated in the emergency room every year for not-in-traffic vehicle crash injuries. About 37 children under age 14 die every year in driveway or parking lot accidents. With lots of children and adults moving around at drop-off and pick-up, it’s hard for even the most careful driver or pedestrian to navigate safely through the parking lot.
The other big health concern about parking lots is air pollution. Exhaust from driving in and out or idling while waiting can degrade air quality outside and inside the building. This is particularly dangerous for children or staff who have asthma or other chronic breathing problems. The chemicals in vehicle exhaust can damage the lungs of otherwise healthy children. We know how quickly coughs, colds and respiratory viruses spread in child care. Poor air quality from traffic or idling cars can make those illnesses even worse.
Providers may need help changing their drop-off and pick-up procedures and thinking through how to make their parking lots and driveways safer. They may also need support implementing “no idling” policies. It can be hard to get staff and families on board with those policies, especially in cold climates where people want to warm up their cars before getting in them. CCR&Rs can help and Child Care Aware® of America is here to give CCR&Rs the technical assistance needed on this issue. Some ideas are below. Contact us to receive TA on how to take these ideas into reality.
What can CCR&Rs do?
- Add parking lot and driveway safety to your child care visit checklist for families. Encourage families to ask questions about drop-off and pick-up procedures, whether children have access to parking lots and driveways and how the provider keeps kids safe from vehicle exhaust.
- Work with your Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) state agency to include parking lot and driveway safety in health and safety inspections of all child care providers. Provide training and technical assistance to ensure safe drop-off and pick-up procedures are in place in all regulated child care facilities.
- Embed information from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Safety and Injury Prevention Curriculum into the pre-service, orientation, and ongoing health and safety training. AAP has a full module addressing safety in and around cars.
- Develop a sample “no idling” policy and support child care providers in adopting and implementing the policies. Share resources such as an information sheet for parents and staff about why no idling policies are important.
- Get the word out to families, providers and policymakers about why parking lot safety matters. CCAoA can help you gather personal stories like this one to bring attention to the issue and gather support for policy change.